112th Plenary Meeting of General Assembly 72nd Session

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06-Sep-2018 03:02:02
Delegates dismayed that landmark treaty has not yet entered into force, as General Assembly observes International Day against Nuclear Tests at 112th plenary meeting.

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Commemorating the International Day against Nuclear Tests today, delegates in the General Assembly evoked the catastrophic consequences and suffering caused by the testing and use of nuclear weapons, as they urged countries that have not done so to sign the Comprehensive Nuclear‑Test‑Ban Treaty.

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres emphasized the importance of remembering victims of the “disastrous era” of nuclear testing, saying that its catastrophic consequences have had a serious impact on human health and the environment. Nuclear tests conducted by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea have demonstrated that every effort must be made to ensure the Treaty enters into force, he added.

The Treaty puts a brake on the nuclear arms race and a barrier on those States that seek to develop nuclear weapons, he continued. Yet more than 20 years since the conclusion of negotiations, the Treaty has yet to enter into force. He appealed to the eight States whose signature is required for the Treaty’s entry into force to ratify the instrument.

General Assembly President Miroslav Lajčák (Slovakia) underlined the huge price paid for the testing and use of nuclear weapons, pointing out that, in addition to cancer, disability and death, nuclear testing also presents a major political risk. “Simply put, these tests do not build trust,” he said, adding: “They bring us closer to the brink.”

Today’s meeting is vital for the planet and humanity, Mr. Lajčák emphasized, also highlighting the hopeful recent developments on the Korean Peninsula. Recalling that tensions were high in 2017 and many feared the worst, he said, “now, we see an opportunity”, commending the efforts of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Republic of Korea and the United States.

Lassina Zerbo, Executive Secretary of the Comprehensive Nuclear‑Test‑Ban Treaty Organization, said that Kazakhstan’s leading role in nuclear disarmament and its decision to close all nuclear test sites on its territory are highly commendable. Noting that nuclear testing has fuelled the nuclear arms race since the dawn of the atomic age, he said 183 States have signed the Treaty, only 3 countries have violated the norm since 1996, and only 1 country has tested a nuclear weapon this century.

The Treaty is a core element of the international nuclear testing regime, he continued, describing the instrument as a “most practical and necessary step” towards a nuclear‑weapons‑free world. He welcomed the decision by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to close its nuclear testing site, while noting that more work remains. Looking back over the years, one would be forgiven for harbouring a sense of despair over trends in international peace and security, he said, adding that a most sensible step towards securing a peaceful future is to sign the Comprehensive Nuclear‑Test‑Ban Treaty.

Karipbek Kuyukov, Honorary Ambassador of the ATOM Project, shared his life account of the devastating consequences of nuclear weapons. He said that he was born in 1968 without arms into an ordinary Kazakh family in a small village, located 100 kilometres from the former nuclear test site at Semipalatinsk. The USSR [Union of Soviet Socialist Republics] carried out its first tests of nuclear weapons there, and a thousand families — ethnic Kazakhs living on the land allocated for the test site — fell hostage to radiation exposure, he said. “My family still remembers how our house was shaken when a radiation wave from the regular explosion passed under us,” he added, calling upon leaders of all countries to sign and ratify the Treaty.

Lazarus Amayo (Kenya), speaking on behalf of the African Group, said nuclear testing has had devastating effects on humanity and the environment, expressing support for the principle of complete nuclear disarmament as the utmost prerequisite for international peace and security. The African Group is deeply concerned about the slow pace of progress towards the elimination of all nuclear weapons. Calling upon all States to work towards the actualization of the Treaty’s goals, he also underlined the inalienable rights of States to the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

Kaha Imnadze (Georgia), speaking on behalf of the Eastern European States, said the world has witnessed the immense and tragic consequences of nuclear testing, yet despite all efforts and commitments, the threat of testing remains a major challenge. He urged the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to sign and ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear‑Test‑Ban Treaty, stressing that a safe and peaceful world is a world free of nuclear tests.

Khalifa Ali Issa Al Harthy (Oman), speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, refuted the notion that the possession of nuclear weapons is a deterrent to war. Although the Middle East is a region of much tension and instability, Arab countries have demonstrated their commitment to the implementation of a verification system, he said, pointing out that, meanwhile, Israel continues to defy the will of the international community by refusing to respect the rules defined by the Treaty.

Gillian Bird (Australia), speaking on behalf of the Friends of the Comprehensive Nuclear‑Test‑Ban Treaty, said that the very existence of this International Day is a testament to the de facto norm against nuclear testing. Welcoming advances made by the Comprehensive Nuclear‑Test‑Ban Treaty Organization in ensuring that the instrument’s verification regime is robust and world‑class, she urged all States that have not yet done so, especially the remaining eight Annex 2 States, to sign and ratify the Treaty without delay.

Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr. (Philippines), speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), denounced the conduct of nuclear-weapon testing or any other nuclear explosions. He reiterated ASEAN’s commitment to remaining a zone free of nuclear weapons and all weapons of mass destruction. As specified under article 3 of the Bangkok Treaty, each State party undertakes not to allow, anywhere inside its territory, the testing or use of nuclear weapons. He also welcomed the inter‑Korean summits as well as the summit between the United States and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Joanne Adamson, European Union delegation, said the response of the Comprehensive Nuclear‑Test‑Ban Treaty Organization to the six nuclear tests conducted by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea demonstrated its invaluable role in quickly providing reliable and independent data, thereby enabling the international community to react appropriately and swiftly. As a strong supporter of the international nuclear non‑proliferation and disarmament regime, the European Union hopes that the positive momentum will bring about tangible progress leading to the verifiable closure of that country’s nuclear test sites. Noting that all of the bloc’s member States have signed and ratified the Treaty, she added that the International Day highlights the urgent need for the Treaty’s entry into force.

Kairat Umarov (Kazakhstan) recalled the Soviet nuclear tests conducted on his country’s territory, pointing out that more than 1.5 million Kazakh victims are still experiencing the horrors today. By celebrating the International Day, Kazakhstan raises its voice for its own victims as well as those in Japan, the Marshall Islands and all the other places where people have suffered and continue to suffer. Nuclear weapons are incompatible with a peaceful and secure future, he emphasized. “No one in the world should have to repeat and suffer like we have,” he added, urging the “remaining minority” to ratify the Treaty.

Many other speakers welcomed advances made by the Comprehensive Nuclear‑Test‑Ban Treaty Organization. The representative of Bangladesh commended its building of a strong verification regime by developing and effectively maintaining a system capable of quickly detecting a nuclear explosion. Vitavas Srivihok (Thailand) said that in a few weeks, his country will deposit the instruments of ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear‑Test‑Ban Treaty. The Government of Thailand will continue to do its part to contribute to the verification regime by hosting two international monitoring stations and supporting the mutually reinforcing links between the Treaty and other related instruments.

Mohammed Bahr Aluloom (Iraq) called for strict measures to prevent terrorists and armed groups from getting their hands on nuclear weapons. Anayansi Rodríguez Camejo (Cuba) expressed concern over the growing role of nuclear weapons in the military and defence sectors. “It is alarming that nuclear‑weapons States continue to develop new nuclear weapons,” she added. Echoing a similar sentiment, Rodrigo Carazo Zeledón (Costa Rica) rejected the premise that nuclear weapons contribute to security. It is essential to comply with international non‑proliferation obligations, especially in the current international situation, he stressed. In a similar vein, Gholamali Khoshroo (Iran) said that, at a time when all those in possession of nuclear weapons have plans to further modernize and upgrade, ending the testing of nuclear weapons is of the utmost importance. Nuclear weapons tests must be prohibited, including through simulation by supercomputers and subcritical testing.

Satyendra Prasad (Fiji) said that his country has witnessed the terrifying and tragic effects of nuclear weapons testing in the Pacific region. The health problems that Fiji and many other Pacific countries face as a result, the effects on marine life, and the impact on fragile subsea structures, remain largely unknown and poorly researched, he emphasized, pointing out that around 300 nuclear tests took place in French Polynesia between 1966 and 1974, and there is clear evidence of suffering all around among that Territory’s communities.

Also speaking today were representatives of Austria, Italy, Belgium, Mexico, Nigeria, El Salvador, China, South Africa, Indonesia, Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil and Peru, as well as the Holy See.
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